Friday, May 25, 2007

The Dear Hunter - Act II: The Mean Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading

Band: The Dear Hunter
Album: Act II: The Mean Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading
Release Date: May 22, 2007
Label: Triple Crown

These days Triple Crown has a talented and varied group of artists, including “Brand New” and “As Tall As Lions,” but the musical creativity of their lineup seems to pale in comparison to “The Dear Hunter,” especially after Casey Crescenzo’s latest offering, “Act II: The Mean Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading.” “Act I: The Lake South, The River North” effectively set in motion a multi-act musical epic. The EP “Act I” although lasting about forty minutes contained more musical depth than most indie and rock releases these days. The extensive variety of instrumentation provided the EP with an astounding number of musical styles ranging from the jam session-esque “The Inquiry of Ms. Terri” to the almost spectral and eerie “City Scape.”

After 2006’s release of “Act I” the question lingered what would come next? With the astounding accomplishment already under The Dear Hunter’s belt could the follow up be as intriguing or masterful? Could Casey and crew live up to their previous creation? The answer is yes, unmistakably yes. Not only does “Act II” continue the concept story from last year, there are noticeable improvements in the mastermind’s vocals and the music is even more complex and wonderfully varied.

Early in the album sits “The Lake and the River” which is rich with various shakers chimes and lesser-used hand instruments. Crescenzo’s matured vocals are easily noticeable here as the song is deepened by additional background chanting vocals that create the driving and urgent atmosphere of the track. The toe-tapping ragtime of “The Oracles On The Delphi Express” adds not only to the album’s stylistic range but also to its lovable and endearing quality.

The Bitter Suite, Parts 1, 2, & 3 span over thirteen minutes and transform gracefully shifting through a variety of musical movements. In opening a solely piano backed serenade welcomes the listener. The song builds with snowballing emotion until it comes to head with elegant crashes and crescendos from the full band. The collections third movement comes after a brief tailing off and begins an instantly endearing jazzy toe-tapper. “Part 2” comes to an understated end using shakers and other underutilized instruments. “Part 3” begins similarly with soft and emotional piano but quickly moves into yet another movement as drums and understated chimes and backing vocals create a fully-realized atmosphere. The song continues through an assortment of highs and lows culminating eerily with a beautifully concocted cacophony of horns and spectral echoes.

One of the epic album’s ear catching standouts, “Smiling Swine,” is dripping with a matured show tune feel that keeps the pace of the album moving with fleshed out accompanying vocals and finger snaps. The fifteenth and final track of “Act II,” “Vital Vessels Vindicate” also wanders through a number of musical movements and at times is directly reminiscent of “Act I: The Lake South, The River North.” It is the perfect closing to this amazingly complex album.
Had it had ever been a question if “Act I” was merely a fluke, not a stroke of musical genius, that possibility is no longer. “Act II” demonstrates full well that Casey Crescenzo is musically talented beyond a shadow of a doubt. Once again (and in such a short period of time) he’s released an absolutely epic concept album that not offers up a riveting story but it’s portrayed in masterful musical detail. The only question left now, is how will The Dear Hunter follow up this release with Act III and when will our ears be graced by it?

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